Our own government imposed privatisation

Veronica Hardstaff

Monday, 18th February 2019, 05:57 am
Updated Monday, 18th February 2019, 06:07 am
An EU flag flies in the face of Parliament

Northfield Court, Sheffield, S10

Mary Steele claims the EU via the Maastricht Treaty imposed a “disastrous privatisation agenda” plus PFI contracts on the UK.

Can I just point out that most of our European neighbours still have publicly owned railways and urban transport systems, and it was our own government that imposed privatisation on our major public services and the use of PFI contracts on local councils. In fact the Social Chapter of the Treaty was very important in extending workers’ rights and social protection. It was for this reason that John Major negotiated an “opt-out” which was reversed by Tony Blair after the 1997 election. The Social Chapter hardly indicates a “transition from a social democratic EU to a neo-liberal model.”  The 1990s were years when left of centre governments dominated the Council of Ministers, parties on the Left had a majority in the European Parliament, and much progressive legislation was introduced.

I have several times written that the EU, like all systems of government, is not perfect, because it is run by human beings who are not perfect. However, its basic raison d’etre has been to restore peace and prosperity to our continent after two extremely damaging World Wars, in which it has been successful, despite the fall-out from the American banking crash in 2008 .

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It still remains to be seen whether we will actually leave the EU in a few weeks’ time. More and more leaders of industries are expressing concern about the effect on their businesses, particularly if they currently export a lot to our nearest neighbours as seamlessly as though they are sending goods to the other end of England, and are considering relocation to inside the Single Market. If we do get the wonderful trade deals across the world in future, as promised by Liam Fox, both transport and environmental costs will be much higher. I am surprised that Mary believes that a future Conservative government will replace current levels of European funding to the poorest regions of the UK from 2023, given their record of 1979 to 1997, and then from 2010 to the present day, when they have quite deliberately taken money away from the poorest parts of our country, and only the EU stepped in to help.

Parliament still seems unable to reach agreement. This is why I believe that the only way to settle whether we remain or leave the EU is to have a People’s Vote on whatever deal does emerge – whether to accept it, or remain in the EU. People now are far better informed than before the referendum nearly three years ago as to the implications. If a substantial majority (rather more than 51.9%) still want to leave, then so be it. The People really will have spoken.